There are lots of ways you can protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays when you’re enjoying time in the sun. Whether you’re heading to the farmer’s market, the beach, or out for a training session, the clothing you wear is your first line of defense that will help to block the radiation.
Although all apparel will give you some protection, certain fabrics do a significantly better job of shielding you from potential damage.
Items with a built-in Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, not only give you added protection, but you’ll also know exactly how much help you’re getting depending on the rating of the fabric.
In this helpful guide, we’ll give you a rundown of what UPF is, how it works, and insider tips on how to find the perfect gear for your needs with added protection.
What is UPF?
UPF is an abbreviation for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it signifies the amount of ultraviolet rays that will penetrate the fabric of the item that you’re wearing in a fraction format.
For example, if you’re wearing a UPF 50 tri kit, then only 1/50th of the sun’s harmful rays can penetrate it to reach your skin.
So, it’s like SPF?
Although UPF and SPF (or sun protection factor) will both block the sun’s radiation, they aren’t the same thing.
UPF is a term that applies to apparel and tells you what fraction of the rays are blocked. To determine the rating, scientists measure and record the amount of UVA and UVB radiation that passes through the fabric and hits your skin.
SPF is different. It’s a rating that’s given to sunscreen or other topical products like cosmetics that indicates how long you can play in the sun before you’ll start to burn. For example, if you’re wearing an SPF 30, you can stay in the sun 30 times longer than you could normally without burning.
However, there are a few things to note about SPF protection. First, it’s only measured against UVB rays, and unlike clothing with built-in UPF, you’ll need to reapply SPF consistently during your time outside to maximize its efficacy.
Sun Protective Clothing Tips
Not all clothing with built-in UPF is created equal. Here are a few important things to consider if you’re in the market for some sun protective clothing.
1. Check out the rating.
All UPF clothing will come with a tag that indicates how high the ultraviolet protection it provides which makes it easy to know if you’re purchasing a high-quality item.
Ratings range from 5 to 100, and anything rating UPF 50 or better blocks 97.5% of all of the UVA and UVB radiation you’re exposed to when you’re out in the sun.
2. Fabric Quality Matters
Sun protective clothing shields your skin through a combination of factors. The material will both absorb and reflect the radiation it encounters, which means that the better the quality, the better the protection.
Look for items with well-made fabric structures. This means the fibers in the fabric will be tightly woven which keeps the space through which sunlight can pass through at a minimum.
There’s another bonus here. Well-made UPF fabrics will never be sheer or see through and will pass the “squat test” every time!
3. Darker is Sometimes Better
Although most fabric dyes will suck up UV radiation, darker colors do a better job at it. Black, deep reds, navy blues, and purples are among some of the best, and if you choose designs in these colors, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.
4. Quick Drying is Important
In general, wet fabric gives you less protection against UVA and UVB rays, so it’s important to choose pieces that dry quickly.
Especially if you’re searching for active wear that you plan to sport when you’re swimming or sweating, a material with moisture-wicking properties is your best bet not only to keep you cool but also covered.
UPF clothing is an easy way to limit your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays while you’re outdoors enjoying your favorite activities. Best of all, it’s suitable for anyone. Unlike sunscreen that might contain questionable chemicals, and that you need to reapply often, apparel with built-in sun protection is an effortless way to stay sun safe.
Check out Tri Sirena's line of women's athletic apparel and set your mind at ease knowing you're protected from the sun. Shop here!
Written by Nicole Kurz, Siren Luminary
Follow Nicole on Instagram! @nicolemkurz
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